Tennessee offensive coordinator Larry Scott and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop met with the media after spring practice on Thursday.
If Georgia Tech ran a conventional offense, it wouldn’t pose the same threat to Tennessee in the season opener.
The Yellow Jackets aren’t devoid of talent or experience. They will return nine starters on offense and eight on defense from a team that went 9-4 in 2016.
But any discussion of Georgia Tech football invariably turns to its system, the option-oriented offense that coach Paul Johnson brought with him from Navy in 2008.
The “flexbone” is altogether different from anything Tennessee will face this season. Fear of the unknown is a factor in any opener. It will be exacerbated by Georgia Tech’s offense.
Much of that is in the presentation, though.
Rather than present Georgia Tech as a team with a strange and exotic offense, try focusing on its obvious limitations. In an era dominated by prolific passing offenses, the Yellow Jackets are a throwback.
Literally, that’s what they do. They throw the ball backward – pitch it, if you will – far more adeptly than they throw it forward. And there’s a reason so few teams invest in the venture.
One of the saddest sights in football is an option-oriented offense struggling to mount a comeback in the final minutes of a game. Pass-oriented offenses can blaze down the field in seconds. Option-oriented offenses need time. They don’t need a lot of third-and-longs.
Even a child could see that the flexbone is limited.
“Daddy, why doesn’t Georgia Tech throw the ball more?” a young fan might ask.
“It prefers to run,” his dad says.
“But Tennessee does both,” the child points out. “Why doesn’t Georgia Tech?”
“You want a hot dog?” the dad responds.
Granted, the option can be difficult to defend. It demands that a defense play assignment football. And it can be as annoying as it is efficient when it chips 4- and 5-yard chunks out of a defense.
It also can irritate an opposing offense, whose players are left to fidget on the sideline whenever an option offense cranks out one of those 15-play, seven-minute drives.
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Opposing offenses can do something about that, though. The best way to deal with an option offense is to take a two-score lead. Playing catch-up can be as daunting as third-and-long when your passing game is functioning at an elementary level.
So the advantages of scoring early will be magnified for Tennessee in its season opener.
In all four of Georgia Tech’s losses last season, its opponent scored first. North Carolina had a 10-0 lead in the first seven minutes en route to a 48-20 victory. Clemson led 14-0 after the first quarter on the way to a 26-7 victory. Miami led 28-7 late in the second quarter before winning 35-21.
In only one of its four losses did Georgia Tech rally to take a lead after falling behind. Against Pittsburgh, it managed a fourth-quarter lead after trailing by 11 points, but eventually lost 37-34.
Those outcomes remind you that it’s not solely up to your defense to beat an option offense.
Reach John Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org or 865-342-6284 and on Twitter @johnadamskns.
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